Preparing Your Students for Live Theatre
We hope that both you and your students will enjoy the USQ Performance Centre's production of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Here is some information about the actual theatre and the production that will help you and your students prepare for your role as audience members as you enter the world of the play.
The Auditorium and Seating
The USQ Arts Theatre is 'fan shaped', rather like a large segment of an Arena Theatre. Its 250 comfortably cushioned, steeply raked seats give children of all ages a good view of the stage.
The Word of the Play
You will enter through cave-like doors to a completely different world where make believe might be true and all sorts of creatures especially rats might come to life. The set itself works as a machine, with parts that move and creatures that pop out. For fifty minutes (no interval) you will live in the medieval land of the play. At the end, you will walk up the isles, now transformed in our minds to become illuminated paths into the mountain/the foyer, on your way back to a new/old world of daylight.
Lighting and Music
Before, during and after the play, you will hear background music. It is important to assure children that the music is there to provide atmosphere, or is a ‘mood-setter', and that there is nothing to be afraid of.
The amount of light in the theatre will vary from time to time as the play progresses. There may be times where it is almost completely dark. We are aware that this can be a frightening experience for some children and taking this into consideration, have ensured that there will always be some level of house lights. If problems do occur, an usher will be close by with a torch to assist you.
Language and Characterisation
Much of the language used in this production has been taken directly from the text of the poem. The character Narrator Statue uses the poem as the narration for the story while other characters also have lines from the poem. Robert Ketton chose to do this so as to expose the children to heightened 19th century style of Robert Browning literature. Another character, Cool Rat is used as a device to focus the children's attention when the language becomes difficult. Cool Rat uses more every day language to translate and assist the young audience in understanding what is happening in the play. He connects the language of the 19th century poem to the new, using language the children can relate to such as, "Hey", "Dude" and "Smarty Pants."
The type of language used in the play has also helped with characterisation. Narrator Statue by using language straight from the poem makes his character seem formal. Cool Rat on the other hand is very cool and hip and sounds contemporary. Other characters such as the two Fat Ladies, whose lines are gossipy, also establish their character from the text.
In order to make the play more light-hearted, Robert Ketton has introduced comedy to the performance. For example, the tragedy of the rats drowning is lessened by setting the scene to a ballet and by the inclusion of lifesaver rats. This use of comedy draws the audience to the funny goings on of the rats rather that the tragedy of their death.
Throughout the play, certain rude words will be presented to the audience. Some words - such as 'bum' - that you may not have heard your students use in the classroom, the playground or at home may be heard. These are presented to provide comic moments and also to reinforce appropriate behaviour rather than to encourage children to use such language. Some words are a construct, hence "Mrs Toppleplob" and "Mrs Booble" have resonances which break taboos for young students.
'The Rat Conga' is a lively song during which the audience is invited to join in the dancing and clapping with the cast (though they must remain at their seats). Our actors will give their best performance to an audience who encourage their efforts. Laughter, groans, applause and cheers will all add to the show. So, when you are invited to participate, make sure you join in – with gusto!
For many children, this production will be their first experience with live theatre, therefore it is important to discuss with them the expected behaviour of the audience. We would ask that prior to the performance, children are made aware of the following:
do not go onto the stage at any time;
all isles must be kept clear throughout the performance ie no sitting on the stairs;
visit the toilet before the show. It is hard to leave once you are involved in the excitement and is distracting for other people;
do not bring food or drinks into the theatre. Theatre is not a place for popcorn and rusting sweet papers;
try not to talk throughout the performance - even whispering voices are distracting to others;
don't leave your seat unless instructed by the teacher or theatre staff; and
turn off your mobile phone, if you have brought one, and don't use a camera or video recorder.
This activity is designed to help give children an understanding of the way to behave in the theatre. Commence with a discussion, asking questions such as ‘How do we behave in the classroom', ‘How do we behave at home' and ‘How do we behave in the library'. Then introduce the question ‘How would we behave at the theatre?' When the children have determined the different ways of behaving, split the room into four squares, allocating a ‘location' (library, classroom, playground, theatre) to each. Get the children moving around the room. When they are in the library square, they must behave as though they were really in the library and so on. After the activity, get students to make a list of ‘ground rules' for attending the theatre.